Danny Ainge has never been afraid to make the big move.
That's the thing to remember as questions swirl around the Boston Celtics' future.
Remember when he traded Antoine Walker, back when Walker was one of the supposed bookends of the Celtics' future, right there with Paul Pierce?
Remember when he traded Kendrick Perkins, the same Kendrick Perkins who was supposed to be one of the linchpins of the Celtics' future, right there with Rajon Rondo?
Ainge always has danced to the beat of his own drummer, a trait that's served him well as the Celtics' basketball boss.
By his own admission, he almost blew this team up at the trading deadline in February, back when the Celtics seemed to be on some treadmill to nowhere, when it seemed as if the era of this Big Three was over, the sound of "Taps" off in the distance.
Now he has another huge decision to make: Does he keep them together one more time, hoping for one more wonderful basketball spring, or does he admit that this great run is over?
And this comes with a certain irony, no question about it.
For it was Ainge who once told Red Auerbach in the late 1980s that he had to break up the original Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, back when it was becoming apparent that they were deep into the back nine of their Hall of Fame careers. Back when Auerbach didn't listen to him.
Now it's his turn to make the same kind of decision.
Do you try to extend what had been seen in the summer of 2007 as a three-year window?
Do you blow up the team that got to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals, or do you tell yourself that next year it will have Avery Bradley and Jeff Green and give it one more chance?
Do you get caught up in the romance of it, the great feel-good story the Celtics were this spring, or do you look at all this with the cold, unsparing eye of an accountant?
This is Ainge's burden now, and it comes in the middle of a different sports world than the one Auerbach lived in back there in the late '80s. We now live in a sports world where you'd better win big; a sports world where there is no tolerance for anything less, not in Boston anyway, where the interest is fever-pitched, and so are the expectations.
Can we handle a team that lets Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen walk off into the basketball sunset?
Can we handle another rebuilding process, even if we think it might be the right move? Can we handle a season or three when the Celtics fall back into the NBA pack, just another team in a league full of them?
Or are we all too spoiled, want big playoff games, want what we've just been through?
This is Ainge's dilemma, and there is no easy answer. Allen broke down in this shortened season. Garnett, who just turned 36, was great, but there are rumors that he may have had enough, Celtics or no Celtics. Paul Pierce had a tough series against the Miami Heat, trying to get by on craft and guile, because his great athletic gifts are slipping away, a victim of age and so many nights running up and down NBA floors.
Is it realistic to think they will be better next year?
NBA history says no.
But this is the core of the team, right there with Rondo.
Which is why it was so emotional to watch them get eliminated by the Heat, in a game in which they were right there until it mattered the most in the fourth quarter. The time when both the home court and the younger legs trumped heart and will and experience.
NBA history also tells us that this five-year Celtics run, the one that saw one NBA title and another trip to Game Seven of the finals, is over.
No surprise there. But I suspect that Ainge will be reluctant to blow this all up, even if he's never been afraid to make the big move. I suspect that he will fall victim to the same thing Auerbach did with the Original Big Three, that he will deal with this emotionally even while knowing that it's probably not the best thing to do. For there's no question that there is great emotion for what the last five years have been, both for Ainge, for Doc Rivers, and for a fan base, too.
No surprise there.
The last five years have been exactly what they were supposed to be, a time when the Celtics became relevant again, with another banner in the rafter to boot.
In short, this has been a great ride for all of us.
Now it gets more complicated.